Welcome to Week 17 and a visit from an Arizona Cardinals team that has taken its lumps (3-12) all season. We've got an afternoon affair at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (more on that below) and the Eagles are looking for a second-straight win as they hope to build momentum heading into the postseason.
Handle your business. That's the theme of the week as the Eagles prep for Arizona and some interesting storylines to consider ...
1. Kyler Murray: It has been a tough season for him
The good news for Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray is that he's back after ACL surgery and he looks good and the Cardinals have shown faith and confidence in him. The tough news is that he's in a really bad situation as he's been sidelined with an illness and is listed as questionable to play. Now, the expectations are that he makes the trip and plays against the Eagles after seeing very limited time in practice. But if you'd had what is going around, well, it's yucky and draining and just not something you bounce back from quickly.
Will he be the energetic and ultra-quick and dangerous quarterback who threatens defenses with his legs? We shall see, and also see what the Eagles do defensively against him. They've played mobile quarterbacks all season, but Murray is a different kind of cat. He's a blur on the field when at his best.
Oh, and if Murray can't make it all the way on Sunday, do you know the name of Arizona's backup quarterback? Clayton Tune. Of course you knew.
2. Eagles offense: Was Monday a strong first step in right direction?
Philadelphia did a lot of good things in the Monday win over the Giants, scoring 33 points and showing great balance, excellent explosiveness, and sustainability on their possessions. Had they been better in the red zone, well, it could have been a really big points game.
The confidence level is high against an Arizona defense that ranks last in the NFL in stopping the run and in third downs and that generally has struggled all season. What do the Eagles do to build off their Monday performance and keep heading in the winning direction? The natural thought is to run the football and that may be the case, but quarterback Jalen Hurts has to be patient and take what the Arizona defense is giving. The Eagles should have some favorable matchups, so the goal is to dictate to the Cardinals, have great ball security, and be efficient in their drives.
3. Arizona's offense loses its explosive home-run threat
James Conner is a bruising running back and a solid all-purpose guy. Second-year tight end Trey McBride has 72 receptions and is the main pass catcher in the aerial game. Arizona placed speedster wide receiver Hollywood Brown on Injured Reserve this week, so the Cardinals will miss that threat. The Eagles will look to take advantage – bottle up Murry and not allow him to run and play tight in coverage. Stopping the run is always a huge priority. The Eagles are coming along with Matt Patricia calling the shots on gameday, so Game 3 is a big step for the defense.
4. The Jonathan Gannon effect
The Eagles' former defensive coordinator returns as Arizona's head coach and the fans are going to recognize him, for sure. But the players? Not a big deal at all. It's football and the Eagles know Gannon and he knows them so it really comes down to execution. Simple as that. Gannon doesn't have a magic bag of knowledge to employ against Hurts and the Eagles' offense. This defense is quite a bit different than when he was here. It's a fun story for the fans and media, but that's about it.
5. A 1 PM kickoff! What's that????
For only the third time this season and the first time since the October 29 game at Washington, the Eagles play at 1 PM. So that means ... set your alarms!!!! Don't be caught off guard. It has been a wild time-and-place schedule in 2023 and this one is going to feel so ... weird? A 1 PM kickoff? That means players are up early, off to the NovaCare Complex for breakfast, and then to the stadium by 10:30, 11 AM. And for Arizona to come east and play at 1 PM, what does that mean? Happy New Year!
6. Win at turnovers, please
This goes without saying, but I'm saying it because it has been a theme all season: The Eagles are at minus-7 in the turnover department and yet they are 11-4 and that just does not compute. In the win over the Giants, the giveaways were freaky – a fumbled kickoff on a teammate-on-teammate collision and then a Hurts interception when tight end Dallas Goedert slipped on his out route. Building toward the postseason, let's expect the Eagles to have great ball security in this one.